The recent $18 billion purchase of cable operator Adelphia by Comcast and Time-Warner is the symbolic end of the era of the cable affiliate, those companies who painstakingly sought out city specific permits to dig holes, pull wires, and install proprietary hardware into our living rooms.
These mergers, commonplace throughout the growth of the cable industry, have been built on the premise of geographic distribution of video, these "local cable affiliates" were often owned locally and regulated by city tax and legal regimes. The consolidators of the physical cable industry sought out partners who had physical infrastructure in geographies, filling out their regional footprint, there are now less than a dozen cable companies with any meaningful penetration. This deal allows Comcast and Time-Warner to consolidate a few pockets of physical installations that will make their regional footprint "whole".
The process of distributing video using cable companies has become cumbersome and complex, and device and geography dependent --- to get your content widely available on cable, you need to negotiate complex agreements with dozens of companies all around the country. Contrast with website publishing (zero friction), cable and satellite distribution seems unlikely to be the foundation of Internet TV.
But these are quickly becomming 'dumb pipes', not $18B assets.
The good news is that, today, publishing a video service globally will be nearly free, and the number of cable affiliate agreements that you will need to negotiate to acheive this distribution will equal zero.